- Number 418 |
- July 21, 2014
DOE's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has received some $4.3 million of DOE Office of Science funding, over three years, to develop an increased understanding of the role of plasma in the synthesis of nanoparticles. Such particles, which are measured in billionths of a meter, are prized for their use in everything from golf clubs and swimwear to microchips, paints and pharmaceutical products. They also have potentially wide-ranging applications in the development of new energy technologies.
“Plasma is widely used as a tool for producing nanoparticles, but there is no deep understanding of the role that plasma plays in this process,” said physicist Yevgeny Raitses, the principal investigator for the project. “Our goal is to develop an understanding that can lead to improved synthesis of these particles.”
Using the second fastest supercomputer in the world, a scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory is attempting to develop a more efficient process for purifying rare-earth materials.
Dr. Nuwan De Silva, a postdoctoral research associate at the Ames Laboratory’s Critical Materials Institute, said CMI scientists are honing in on specific types of ligands they believe will only bind with rare-earth metals. By binding to these rare metals, they believe they will be able to extract just the rare-earth metals without them being contaminated with other metals.
Back in 2003, researchers using the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s (OLCF’s) first supercomputer, Phoenix, started out with a bang. Astrophysicists studying core-collapse supernovae—dying massive stars that violently explode after running out of fuel—asked themselves what mechanism triggers explosion and a fusion chain reaction that releases all the elements found in the universe, including those that make up the matter around us?
“This is really one of the most important problems in science because supernovae give us all the elements in nature,” said Tony Mezzacappa of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and researcher at the time at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
You wouldn’t think that mechanical force — the simple kind used to eject unruly patrons from bars, shoe a horse or emboss the raised numerals on credit cards — could process nanoparticles more subtly than the most advanced chemistry.
Yet, in a recent paper in Nature Communications, Sandia National Laboratories researcher Hongyou Fan and colleagues appear to have achieved a start toward that end.
Their newly patented and original method uses simple pressure — a kind of high-tech embossing — to produce finer and cleaner results in forming silver nanostructures than do chemical methods, which are not only inflexible in their results but leave harmful byproducts to dispose of.